Citizenship in a Networked Age with Vint Cerf, Nuala O’Connor, & Michael Wear (podcast)

By Templeton Staff
August 07, 2021
Three intersecting perspectives navigate what it means to be a citizen in a digitally networked age.

Internet pioneer Dr. Vint Cerf; former president and CEO at the Center for Democracy and Technology, Nuala O’Connor; and director of faith outreach for President Barack Obama, Michael Wear give insights on what it means to be a citizen in today’s digitally networked age from the perspective of tech, policy, and theology.

As Google's vice president and chief Internet evangelist, and one of the world’s recognized “fathers of the Internet,” Vint Cerf shares thoughts on his own role in the genesis of the digital age. He also discusses his hopes and concerns for the future of the technology that — in fewer than 40 years — has transformed from a niche tool used by academics to a powerful information-sharing platform the majority of the people on the planet can harness to serve their own individual agendas.

For Nuala O’Connor, the involvement of citizens in the creation of their own institutions is an important consideration. The biases of the creators themselves, the individuals who program the computers or set up the systems are inherently woven into the technology and devices they create. ”We need to stress-test these algorithms, these systems, these architectures as they become so opaque and so embedded in our lives. We take for granted that these devices we are creating and embedding in our lives are serving all of our needs, and are serving equality and democratic principles.” But are they? “Or are they embedding and reinforcing biases that we all have clung to for many years of our lives?” She calls for “social responsibility and a corporate civics responsibility for Internet companies, just as there has been social and corporate and moral responsibility for industrial companies in the Industrial Age.”

Michael Wear discusses how the relationship between humans and technology, and between fellow citizens, is a vital part of supporting human flourishing. He talks about how technology can and is being wielded for the common good, but emphasizes that the tools we have available to manipulate people’s affections and to rapidly spread information are dangerous. He believes it’s imperative that we respond with integrity and act with moral conscience in order to sustain a healthy future for society.

Discover the video version of this interview.

Learn more about the TWCF-funded research project related to this episode.

Read the transcript from the interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay, presented by podcast producer Tavia Gilbert. Featuring: Vint Cerf, Google's vice president and chief Internet evangelist; Nuala O’Connor, former president and CEO at the Center for Democracy and Technology and current Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel, Digital Citizenship at Walmart; Michael Wear, a strategist, speaker, and practitioner at the intersection of faith, politics, and public life.


Built upon the award-winning video series of the same name, Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” podcast features stories of new scientific research on human flourishing that translate discoveries into practical tools. Bringing a mix of curiosity, compassion, and creativity, journalist Richard Sergay and host Tavia Gilbert shine a spotlight on the human impact at the heart of cutting-edge social and scientific research projects supported by TWCF.